Christian Science: The Power of Good Over Evil
(Journal report) (2b)
Bicknell Young, C.S.B.
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
A lecture delivered by Bicknell Young, C.S.B., of the Board of Lectureship, in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, Massachusetts, May 9, 1910.
Uninstructed by Christian Science,
mortals find few points of agreement as to what constitutes fundamental truth
or error. Fortunately, however, some conclusions involved in human existence
are so obvious that upon them all are agreed. Perhaps the chief of these may be
found in the fact that as a race we are not as happy or harmonious as we would
like to be. The history of all human effort is but a record of the attempt of
mortals to preserve their own existence and to make it satisfactory. I need not
recount the methods employed; let it suffice to say that they have not yet
succeeded, nor is there
any more prospect of their doing so now than formerly.
Christian Science is not a magic cure-all, it provides no means whereby inert and indifferent humanity may find peace or happiness without any legitimate effort to gain them; but it is a system of pure Christianity. Through its practice, those who desire harmony, peace, and satisfaction may ultimately obtain them, and may even now have a foretaste of their joys. Jesus the Christ taught and exemplified this way, which was and is his way. It is this way, the Christ-way, that we shall here consider, and see if we may not, even in the brief space allotted to us, learn something definite in regard to it and begin to walk in it with assurance and gladness.
Prevailing systems of education
have not understood the teaching and life of Jesus. Religious and scientific
schools have equally failed to grasp the true meaning of that God-ordained and
God-sustained career. His miracles have been considered impossible by science
and wholly personal by theology. Christian Science inculcates better views. It
shows that the works which Jesus and his disciples performed were not really
miracles, but were on the contrary natural phenomena attendant upon accurate
knowledge of God and of His law; knowledge which all may gain, and which Jesus
implied that all must gain when he said, "I am the way." What is the
nature of this knowledge? Can we obtain it now? Christian Science answers all
such questions fully and affirmatively. It is an educational system in the
highest meaning of the term. It explains itself fully and simply. All who
desire may begin to understand it now, and enter upon a progressive Christian
and scientific experience which shall continue until the
The Vast Universe
In order to reason accurately and understand each other clearly, we must first find some further common point of agreement. Looking out upon the universe as we see it, nothing is more striking or more generally evident than its vastness. Even with our limited powers of observation the universe appears to be unlimited. It is admitted by all to be infinite, and this admission involves others. There is nothing in our material view of the universe that ever indicates the cause of the universe; even the cause and principle of motion and force have never been found in material phenomena.
Yet the universe, in order to have existence, or even the semblance of it, must have a cause or principle. Without that admission, even thought becomes chaotic, not to say impossible. What kind of a cause must there be for an infinite universe? Clearly nothing less than an infinite cause. This reasoning leads to the further logical conclusion that an infinite cause precludes the possibility of more than one cause and establishes the fact that such cause must be self-existent and eternal. Now, what is necessarily the nature of eternality? The word means that which is without beginning or end, and which is ever continuous. This must be the nature of that great First Cause or creator whom Christians have united in calling God. Admitting then, as we must, that God is eternal, it follows, inevitably that God is free from all elements of destruction.
Nothing that we know humanly will enable us to outline or measure the infinite or eternal. Material sense cannot depict God. Thought alone empowers us to rise to a point of spiritual altitude where we can declare Him aright; even the grandest and best words we can employ are inadequate to represent Him. Words must, however, be used in Christian Science, as in other systems of education, and when used correctly they tend to arouse correct ideas concerning Deity. All knowledge consists of ideas. Even Christian knowledge consists of ideas and not things or symbols or mental images, although this fact has not been generally understood by the Christian churches, or indeed at all. When we understand this we have gained a certain measure of scientific Christian knowledge, which we can test for ourselves, and when we learn to test and prove its efficacy in our daily lives, we shall not need to be persuaded of its verity.
It is impossible to think of the cause of the universe as less than intelligence. The word mind, however, conveys a great impression and is a broader term, and for this reason Christian. Science declares that God is Mind. The words which stand for Deity have not been generally understood aright. Christian Science enables us to understand them. The statement that God is Mind is a true one, and is exceedingly helpful in removing old erroneous beliefs and superstitions. We have seen that God is free from elements of destruction, and must be so in order to be eternal. We can express this fact in the statement that God is good. In order to get the full benefit of these definitions we should, however, free ourselves from the limitations of belief with which they have generally been narrowed. Good, as here used, is a synonym for the word God, not a mere adjective. Thus these two statements may be used conversely, saying Mind is God: good is God. In this manner we at last begin to understand what God actually is and what the word God actually means.
The Real and the Unreal
It is clear that God as infinite cause and creator is power, and it follows that as there is only one God, there is only one power. This admission of the omnipotence of God, however, means more than has been generally associated with it, for it means that good is the only real power in the universe. Let us remember that, just in proportion as we maintain this fact unswervingly, we can prove evil to be less and less powerful, less and less influential in our daily lives, and we are thus forcing evil to its vanishing-point. If evil were as real as God, it would be eternal and infinite, and we could never get rid of one iota of it. The question of the real and the unreal at first seems difficult in the endeavor to understand and practice Christian Science, but it should not be lightly considered. Christian Science does not teach us to deny in a flippant manner such terrible experiences as sin and disease. The object of Christian Science practice is to reduce the prevalence of sin and disease, and ultimately to eliminate them, as they clearly have no divine origin. That the creation must be and is like the creator, is an incontrovertible fact, and in the light of it we see why the Bible declares that "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." It would be impossible for God to see any other creation than the one which is wholly good.
Now the question arises, Is it proper for us to try to see God's creation as He sees it? Is it good, is it religious and scientific, for us to strive for an altitude of thought which can at least declare the truth about God and His creation and His man? Which is more Christian, to strive to behold the universe spiritually, or materially? Which is more scientific, to declare the nature of truth to be eternal, just, lawful, and wholly right and good, or to believe that truth is both mortal and immortal, both just and unjust, both lawful and lawless, both right and wrong? Christian Science practice involves the operation of Truth which is divine, which is God. It invokes the power of Truth. It explains the healing and saving Christ, and enables one to recognize the universality of that Christ. It shows that the Christ is not a person, but a divine influence. It ascribes all glory to God, and all honor and glory to His word. It inculcates a reverence for Christ Jesus that is truly Christian, and devoid of the usual superstitious ideas which prevail in relation to him. It shows why he was the Christ, by explaining that his thought or consciousness was one with God, one with Love, one with good; that the power which he exhibited was divine power, and that his works constitute a proof that such power is available to man here upon earth, under all circumstances.
Furthermore, Christian Science shows clearly that it was not the personality of Jesus which healed and saved men and raised the dead, but that it was the truth which constituted his mind or consciousness, and which was active knowledge and irresistible. Jesus, explaining this in relation to himself declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life;" and this truth, and this life, and this way are still the truth, the life, and the way for all Christians, — the healing Truth, the exemplification of eternal and perfect Life, and the way, or the Principle and method by which the healing Truth and eternal Life are made manifest. This Principle is absolute, and the method is unvarying allegiance to Principle in thought and action.
Religious teaching generally has declared that the creator is good and exempt from sin and disease, but has feared to carry that fact to its logical conclusion by maintaining that His creation is also good like Himself, and like Himself exempt from sin and disease. Christian Science is radical. It shows that no one can be harmed by knowing the truth, but must on the contrary be blessed; and that harmony, including health and life, is the naturally divine provision established for man and all creation. Sin and disease do not appear and cannot be known through God or through anything that He ever said or did. Listening only to the divine Mind, entertaining the ideas which reveal and express God, good, one would never learn or experience anything of disease or sin, for these are known to and through the material senses only.
By lifting human thought above the mere evidence of the senses, a scientific attitude is attained, and when maintained this is found to produce practical results. The evidence of the senses is constantly changing under improved conditions of education. Many things which were formerly considered impossible, according to such evidence, have been found not only to be possible, but common everyday incidents. Christian Science does not, however, teach that evil can be overcome by any mere superficial attempt to ignore sin and disease; nevertheless it is in consonance with the most progressive and uplifting tendency in requiring that the spiritual facts shall be accepted, even though contrary to the evidence of the senses, and especially when such evidence appears as disease or suffering.
To recognize that human life is unlike the divine facts revealed in Christian Science in no way controverts those facts, but shows the need for their practical application. Sometimes the ordinary psychologist objects to our reasoning, declaring that to aver that God does not know sin or disease, is virtually to say that we can know something which God cannot know. Christian Science replies that manifestly Truth could not know error. The appearance of Truth effects the disappearance of error. Error may be experienced because of wrong education or fear, but it cannot be known. To use a hackneyed illustration, we may experience twice two is five, but we can never know it, for it is not true. We simply experience a mistake. Sin and disease and all evil are thus classified in Christian Science. They cannot be known because they are no part of Science, or Truth, or God. When they are experienced they are still no part of real knowledge, and real knowledge in Christian Science removes them. The whole world tacitly admits this contention of Christian Science, for the race is engaged in a ceaseless effort to change everything.
The phenomenon of disease appears in what is called the human body, but who is able to say that the human body exists apart from thought? People are conscious, and their consciousness includes what they call their bodies. Who shall say that what they call their bodies is diseased, and that their consciousness is free from disease? If the body is included in consciousness, — and it is, — then consciousness is first, not last, and the correction or overcoming of disease should begin in thought, not in matter.
Accepting the old idea that disease is natural and perhaps God-ordained, that it has inherent power and exists and continues according to law, we are hopeless; but with the understanding that such is not the case, and that disease, not originating in God, has no real origin or inherent power, one sees the possibility of destroying it. Doubtless some will say or think, "I wish it were true that disease and sin were without any existence and were merely illusion." It is good to know that we are all one in the desire to gain the divine standpoint, one in the desire first to see and then to prove that suffering and all forms of evil are unreal to God and ought to be so to us. If all the world will unite in this desire, the power and understanding for its fulfillment will not be long delayed. To see these facts clearly, reduces greatly the fear of disease and sin; but that the statements involved, if unexplained, should sound strange and foolish and consequently give a wrong impression of Christian Science, is not surprising.
Let us remember always that no such conclusion could be reached from a human standpoint and that Christian Science never assumes such a standpoint. The standard and the standpoint of Christian Science is always divine; we need not, therefore, be shocked by the conclusions. They will not cause us to be cold or indifferent toward the suffering or sinful, but quite the contrary, for these conclusions rest upon the understanding that God is Love, just as St. John declared; and one who has reached that conviction, and who knows that the one God, who is Love, is Mind, and is therefore omnipresent Love, could not be less than tender and compassionate.
For centuries the race has been striving to mitigate or eliminate the ravages of disease. Indeed, it is admitted that disease is wholly abnormal and undesirable. Every sane person is willing to part with it. Christian Science classifies it correctly. It shows that disease cannot be any part of God, and that the creator could not create anything baneful or inharmonious. Disease is seen to be no part of Science or Truth, and the conclusion is inevitable that it is wholly in the nature of error. This analysis, however, while absolutely logical, is not immediately satisfactory. It requires proof.
The question naturally arises, then, How does Christian Science classify disease more specifically? The answer is, that as disease does not exist in Truth, or God, it only exists in belief, and that in the last analysis mankind is not contending with disease per se, but with the belief of disease, which, on account of centuries of wrong education along the lines of superstition and fear, appears more real than Truth itself. But, it may be added, if it is admitted that the race is suffering, what difference does it make to classify disease as belief, since the experience is the same, whether it is called disease or belief? Christian Science answers that it makes a vast difference. Recognizing disease as belief, there is less fear of it, and there immediately appears the possibility of overcoming it, if the teaching in this respect is understood.
To place disease thus in the realm of belief where it belongs is the truly scientific way. Mrs. Eddy illustrates this in a very striking manner in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," on page 416. She calls attention to a hypothetical case which is, however, quite common in medical experience. She supposes a person suffering intense pain, to whom a hypodermic dose of morphine is administered and who, in consequence of the generally accepted belief in regard to that drug, is presently asleep. The brain, the nerves, and all the material conditions which are considered to be the root of the pain, or which are associated with it, remain unchanged, and all material systems of healing expect that the pain will recur when the patient awakes. She asks most pertinently, "Where is the pain while the patient sleeps?" This supposititious case illustrates clearly that pain requires some sort of mentality in order that it be experienced, and that fundamentally it is not in matter, but in thought or belief, as has been already indicated. The remedy then is not a condition of belief, but of understanding, which avails itself of the divine Mind. And true mental healing is consequently not the influence of one mortal mind over another, but the presence of divine Mind, made available through Christian Science.
Is it not then worth while to consider the teaching of Christian Science, and test it rather than reject it? I believe that even now we may observe in ourselves some good effects from the consideration of these ideas. I feel sure that disease seems less fearful and sin less alluring in the light of what we have already learned. I cannot think that these sublime ideas will ever leave you, or that you will ever become indifferent to them; and when a mortal sees the truth of these ideas, and has accepted them, he is called upon in Christian Science immediately to apply them. He is asked to consider his own consciousness, the realm of thought which he calls his mind. His Christianity has taken on a large form of active application and progressive demonstration. It enables him to see that sin and disease have no place in the creation. He no longer places them side by side with the phenomena of Spirit or Truth, and he separates them not only from God, but gradually also from himself.
By this process of right reasoning he establishes his own thought upon a fearless foundation and is a purer Christian, saying with the Founder of Christianity, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." Such a person, recognizing the reality of good, and applying his new-found knowledge, finds himself face to face with all the educational systems of the world, and with the history of the race and all that it involves. He does not, therefore, immediately prove the divine facts fully, although he apprehends them partially. The proof comes little by little, but it is of a most encouraging nature, uplifting and spiritualizing thought. Incidentally, also, the physical effects are observed, and especially in the healing of disease.
It should be remembered that, if limits of any kind are placed upon divine power or upon its application, humanly speaking, then religion itself, instead of being the exposition of the infinite basis or Principle of the universe and of its infinite law, is a mere circumscribed and limited opinion of that basis and law. Therefore, even though the Christian Scientist is proving Christian Science to be both Christian and scientific only in some slight degree, he is doing far more than has ever been accomplished before in the world since the time of Jesus and his early followers.
The average thinker, having received his education in a more or less material way is prone to doubt the application of Christian Science. He rests, or is apt to rest, in the acceptance of its beauty, its spiritual truth, and unless he is awakened to a large and more active view, he may stagnate at that very point. If Christian Science needed a new definition, it might be found in the affirmation that it is an awakening process to all mankind. It must, and does, declare itself to be a complete and satisfactory explanation of all phenomena, a complete and perfect method of demonstration for all problems. Jesus never failed to heal disease. Unquestionably the way which never fails is the scientific way, and no one will dispute the fact that his way was and is the Christ-way.
Practically all religious experience shows that sin is the most difficult evil element to eradicate. So tenacious is it that all Christians admit that it can be eliminated only by Christ, Truth. Admitting this, it is simply preposterous to assume that the lesser element, disease, cannot be eliminated through Christ except by aid of drugs, surgical operations, or other material means. Christian Science maintains a consistent attitude, and shows that the ideas which reveal God originate in Him and can be employed through the scientific method of Christian Science, the Christ-power, which operates to change the inharmonious evidence of the senses.
But, it may be asked, when Christian Science heals a case of disease, does not the evidence of the senses say that the person is well? and if one cannot accept such evidence when it testifies of disease, how can he do so when it testifies of health? Christian Science replies that harmony is the natural status of man and is God's law to man. When disease is overcome through the application of that law, it is Science which has achieved the result, and the result is scientific. The material senses, finding their master in Christ, Truth, yield to Truth's law and testify to health. Were it otherwise, they would be greater than God; but the healing is not merely sense testimony, it is the evidence of scientific truth.
Explanation of Evil
If we admit a creation, and thereby admit the existence of a creator who must be eternal, we are forced to admit the conclusion that God is not the author of sin, disease, or their culmination, death. This fact is basic in Christian Science. Then comes at once the question as to how sin and disease, including want and woe, could appear. When one explains to the inquirer that they could not originate in the infinite, and that therefore they have no origin and that their appearance is false, he ponders; and then, with a sudden conviction that he is about to propound a most original and unanswerable question, he straightway demands, Well, granting that they have no cause and therefore no real existence, how is it that they seem to exist? Let it be said without further delay that this question is neither unanswerable nor original. Everybody asks it some time in his career. There is, however, only one way of getting a satisfactory answer, and that is through the proof which Christian Science affords by actual demonstration.
When one accepts the unquestionable fact that God is not the author of anything destructive or afflictive, and begins to maintain that fact and reasons from it that disease or affliction, having no origin in God, have no law of action or presence and no real existence, then he will get a proof of the efficacy of Christian Science instruction, and that proof explains disease or affliction by eliminating it. The destruction of evil is the explanation of evil, and the only explanation. Evil, disease, cannot be destroyed by the popular systems of medicine and theology. The best they do is to mitigate human suffering, to some extent. To ascribe sin and disease to God, as these systems generally do, tends to perpetuate suffering. Besides this, we do not need a theoretical explanation of evil. We and all mankind need a practical demonstration that evil is not so powerful as God — good.
God never demands an explanation of evil. It is unknown to God. The real man, the emanation or image of God, expressing infinite being and strength and power, spiritually guided, spiritually sustained and provided, asks no explanation of evil. The only thing that ever asks for an explanation of evil is evil itself, which has always said, "How did it happen that I appeared?" And when the explanation is given, that evil does not really exist, then evil asks, "How is it that I seem to have existence?" and thus strives to give further semblance of reality to itself. The wise Christian Scientist, and the student who is gaining wisdom, should be awake to this subtle argument, and begin the process of demonstration by which sin and disease disappear.
The Bible, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
There are hundreds of readings of various passages from the Old and New Testaments in all of which the human element is largely in evidence. Rarely indeed has spiritual truth been discerned. Christian Science, giving one the basis for right thought and right thinking, and the Principle by which to test such thought and guide all action, is disclosing the spiritual import of the Holy Scriptures. Of all the earnest students of the Holy Scriptures to be found in the world today, none are more earnest, none more sincere, none more prayerfully looking for the way by which men are to be saved, and for the power by which to save them, than are Christian Scientists. By means of Christian Science they are able to see, and see more and more clearly every day, the truth which the Bible teaches. They are able to look through and beyond the usual interpretations, and they see here, there, and everywhere the spiritual fact which is set forth, even though it be clouded by the material history.
That which thus acts as a most powerful search-light upon the pages of the Bible is the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. This book is unlike others. It is unique; it had to be unique. It is so original that it has to be studied from a new standpoint of thought and observation, a standpoint which it itself erects. The work is purely metaphysical, wholly Christian, and sublimely scientific. The science of it, however, is of such a nature that it may not be at once seen, for it involves not only the recognition of a perfect Principle and accuracy of thought in relation thereto, but also spiritual discernment, a quality which has not generally been associated with the word science. This is one of the most remarkable and original features of the book. It inculcates a new and more spiritual view of science, and the great world of thinkers, in the splendor of this view and the magnitude of its possibilities, is not inclined to give it up, even though it be as yet not fully understood.
Mrs. Eddy's Discovery
The Principle of Christian Science, the divine fact that infinity is perfect, and must be so in order to be immortal and eternal, came to Mrs. Eddy in a moment of great need, healing her of what threatened to be fatal conditions, and so uplifting her thought that she was able to heal others who came to her for aid. Gradually she began to explain, as far as was possible, to other people what she herself had discerned as to the nature of God and His law. She found, as we find today, that many are glad to hear but that among those who listen are also some who hesitate because they do not at once understand the explanation in regard to that which is unlike God, the lives of human beings involved in disease and sin and death.
Mrs. Eddy, however, persisted in the simple truth which alone can explain what seems to be the complicated errors of human life, and gradually others began the practice of Christian Science; then, through their endeavor to apply what she had learned, and out of her own observation and personal practice, the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, was gradually written. It first appeared in the year 1875, and ever since then those who have studied it have been learning how to overcome disease, as well as sin through Christ. That there is one cause, one God, is a self-evident fact, for in an infinite universe there could not be more than one cause. That God is cause, is power, and that consequently as there is one God there is one power, are correlative facts and are irrefutable. That the one power is the only power in the universe, and is omnipotence, is a fact equally irrefutable. That God is eternal, and is therefore good, and that consequently good is omnipotent, is a conclusion derived from these irrefutable facts, and is, like them, irrefutable.
Mrs. Eddy saw that these sublime facts, however clearly set forth, were dimly apprehended by mortals. She saw that they could not at once be realized, but that in the absence of realization these facts could be affirmed, and thus by a gradual process bring about a realization of their verity. This is an indication of the process by which Christian Science overcomes disease as well as sin. It enables one to put into operation the divine facts of being, which have not even been recognized by systems of education and religious belief. It shows one that these facts are not only real, but ever present, and that, when recognized, they are operative. Psychologists may endeavor to explain why or how thought operates to heal disease, but Christian Science alone actually explains, for it alone, of all the systems of the world, shows that thought which is in accordance with God has back of it the only real power, God Himself.
Through Mrs. Eddy's teachings, thousands of people have been healed of diseases generally regarded as incurable. Innumerable cases of sin and sinful tendencies have been utterly changed. Drunken and debauched people in hundreds of instances have been made useful Christian men and women. Many of us have come out of great tribulation and discouragement through gaining some understanding of those teachings. Is there any wonder that this army of beneficiaries should be grateful to their benefactor? It may be, that in the exuberance of new-found hope and in the enthusiasm of regained health, Christian Scientists may sometimes give a wrong impression concerning their attitude of love and gratefulness toward Mrs. Eddy; but better this, than that they should be ungrateful.
Undoubtedly, through years of experience and trial, with a constant importunate desire to know and do the will of God, Mrs. Eddy was spiritually prepared to receive the truth which came to her, to recognize its scientific nature and to discern and set forth the rule by which it could be proved among men; but this is not the whole of the debt of gratitude which humanity owes to her. During more than forty years she has stood, and maintained her teachings of Christian Science in their integrity. In the early years of this experience she was opposed by all the existing theories of religion, science, and education. Derision and contumely, not to say malignity, were heaped upon her; but through it all she stood. We read that in ancient times a certain prophet had a friend on either side who held up his hands in an hour of peril and trial to himself and his people, but in those early days Mrs. Eddy had no such friends. She stood alone, sustained by her knowledge of the presence and power of the God who is Love, — one of the sublimest examples of exalted courage to be found in the history of the race. She still stands as the Leader of this great movement, but now through faith and faithfulness no longer alone, for thousands of friends and followers stand with her.
Friends, it is not the mission of Christian Science to persuade you in any way. Even though one possessed a vocabulary and an eloquence untainted by earth, he would not use it for that purpose. We are fully convinced that truth is the heritage of man; that it belongs to all men; that it belongs to us. We have a right to recognize it: we have the power and ability to apply it to our human problems. It is made practical in Christian Science teaching. It is impersonal, pure, holy, sublime. Truth is never to be feared, but always to be revered. Understood as the gospel of Jesus Christ indicates its basis and application, it is God with us; good with us; Mind and power, action and law with us. Truth never enters into condemnation or recrimination or fear. It knows no fear, it is not self-condemnatory on one side, or self-righteous on the other. It blames no one for the evils which beset him, but gives every one a means by which to eliminate evil. Truth is always to be found in the Bible, and nowhere is it more profoundly or more beautifully expressed than in the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians: "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."
Friends, we have entered upon the brotherhood of man. Even within the hour that brotherhood has been exemplified to some extent, for we here have been dwelling in the one Mind, realizing something of the one God who is good, and learning of His immanence and availability. It is in this unity alone that we shall be able to demonstrate the power of true Christianity. Let us in our endeavor be one with God and one with each other. Let us cease to impute to human beings the trespasses of which they are the victims; let us rather remove the sins and the sorrows and the sufferings of mankind by seeing also that the Christ was in the world, and is still in the world, "not imputing their trespasses unto them."
[Delivered May 9, 1910, in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Journal, July, 1910.]